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KATIE ZERR: Compassion and patience needed in dealing with grief

When does the punishment fit the crime? Why is it that to some, those who break the law are not punished as we see as fit?
For residents of our area, two news stories this week are hitting hard. The parole of Nicholas Scherr, who served 23 years for the murder of Candace Rough Surface in 1980 and the 120-day jail sentence for James C. Weatherman who was driving the vehicle that was involved in the accident that killed Danielle McCollam in 2016 were both announced this week.
For those involved in these cases, Scherr’s release from prison and Weatherman’s sentence are inconceivable. Many residents are shaking their heads, wondering how these men are not facing harsher punishments.
Scherr’s health, according to reports, is fragile as he is battling cancer. That may have played a role in his release after serving 23 years for the murder of the young, Native America, mother in 1980. The facts of the case are well-known. Scherr was sentenced to serve 100 years in prison for his role in the crime. His cousin, James Stroh, testified against his cousin and received 15 years in prison and was paroled in 2004.
The family of Candace Rough Surface has been ripped apart by this crime and still feels the intense pain caused by her death as was obvious at a recent rally against violence against women, held in Mobridge.
A child grew up without a mother, a granddaughter was robbed of knowing her grandmother, other family members talked about a life taken away by the actions of two young men. In their eyes, no punishment was too severe for those responsible.
This scenario plays out too often in this country, in our state and in our neighborhoods. Every day there are reports of women disappearing only to be found to have been murdered. The majority of the time, these women are killed at the hands of a man, often someone they knew or someone they trusted.
For those who live with the aftermath of these crimes, no punishment may seem enough to help ease their pain.
Weatherman was driving a vehicle that hit McCollam’s head on, killing her as she drove to work. He got a plea deal that seemed to some in our community to be a slap on the wrist. The sentence was part of a plea agreement reached when he agreed to admit to felony manslaughter. He received a 10-year suspended prison term. He must serve 120 days in jail.
That is not a state prison, it is a county jail. He admitted he was in the wrong, causing her death, and will have his freedom taken away for three months.
There are other conditions, but the fact still remains he will be free to live his life.
We know he will serve probation, must participate in a safe driving program and talk to school children about his responsibility in her death.
We don’t know him. We don’t know how he will be effective for causing her death.
We do know how it has impacted her family, her friends and our community. We live with it, as does the family, friends and our community with the aftermath of Candace’s death.
In these cases, some have voiced their outrage with the justice system. They have taken to social media to condemn the outcomes of these crimes. It is a platform for them to have their voice heard. We may not agree with some of what has been said, but it is something those who grieve feel they need to do.
We should have patience and compassion for all who are involved, including the families of these three men. They too, in ways we can only imagine, have been impacted because of the actions of their relatives.
We may feel injustice has occurred and that is our right.
Using compassion and patience for all involved is the best way to help others pull through this.